BEIJING — A massive second wave of COVID-19 infections has prompted European countries to tighten their preventive measures, including reimposing lockdowns, to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Wednesday evening that France will go into national lockdown starting from Friday.
“The virus is circulating at a speed that not even the most pessimistic forecasts had anticipated,” said Macron in a televised address to the nation. “Like all our neighbors, we are at the same point, overwhelmed by a second wave which will undoubtedly be harder and more deadly than the first.”
France on Wednesday recorded 36,437 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the national tally to 1,235,132 with 35,785 deaths, according to figures released by French Public Health Agency.
Under the new lockdown, the only authorized out-of-home trips will be “to go to work, to a medical appointment, to provide assistance, to go shopping or to take the air,” said Macron.
The restrictive measures will affect universities, libraries, bars, cafes, restaurants and gyms. Public gatherings will be banned, and cultural ceremonies and conferences suspended, according to the president.
But unlike the first lockdown, nurseries, primary schools and middle schools will remain open, said the president, arguing that “our children would not be lastingly deprived of education, of contact with the school system.”
Also on Wednesday, Germany announced a partial lockdown starting from Nov. 2.
Germany registered a daily record high of 14,964 new cases over the past 24 hours, taking the national caseload to 464,239, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany’s disease control agency, said on Wednesday.
The death toll in the country rose by 85 to 10,183, according to the RKI.
Under the new round of lockdown, entertainment and leisure activities will be largely prohibited throughout Germany as bars, restaurants, theaters, operas and concert venues will have to close until the end of November.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn told the German public broadcaster SWR on Wednesday that it is time to break the COVID-19 wave now. “When the intensive care units are full, it will be too late.”
Priority should be given to keep daycare centers for children and schools open and to ensure that the economy could continue to operate, which is important to secure jobs in Germany, according to Spahn.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday called on the European Union (EU) member states to shoulder responsibility at all levels to fight the second wave of the pandemic.
Von der Leyen announced new proposals made by the commission to enhance the EU-level coordination to address the health crisis, including improving the flow of information to allow informed decision-making, establishing more effective and rapid testing, making full use of contact tracing and warning apps across borders, among others.
Von der Leyen underlined the necessity of wearing a mask, good hand hygiene, as well as avoiding crowds and indoor spaces lacking good ventilation.
As a special advisor to von der Leyen, Belgian microbiologist Peter Piot acknowledged that the European containment measures were “relaxed too much” after the first wave was largely under control in the summer.
Last week, Ireland decided to impose a nationwide lockdown again due to the resurgence of COVID-19 cases.